Traceless: Material Made From Plant-Based Polymers Protects Climate and Environment

Traceless is produced from grain waste in a particularly resource-efficient way. The use of natural polymers makes the material biocompatible and climate-friendly.

Traceless: Material Made From Plant-Based Polymers Protects Climate and Environment

Interview with Dr.-Ing. Anne Lamp, CEO & Co-Founder, traceless materials GmbH

As early as 1908, textile engineer Jacques Brandenberger invented cellophane, a film made of natural polymers. However, the material was displaced by synthetic polymers with the development of numerous plastics. In the wake of the climate crisis, natural polymers are now coming back into focus as an alternative to fossil raw materials. traceless offers such an alternative.

Dr. Anne Lamp.

In an interview with K-MAG, Anne Lamp talks about traceless, the production of the material and its possible applications.

Dr Lamp, with traceless you have developed a new type of material. What is it about?

Dr Anne Lamp: traceless is a natural, plant-based plastic alternative. We use plant-based residues from the agricultural industry to produce a thermoplastic granulate that can be further processed using standard plastics processing methods. My motivation for developing the traceless material was to develop a biocompatible material according to the cradle-to-cradle principle – 100% bio-based, naturally compostable, free of potentially harmful substances, climate-friendly and resource-efficient in production and processing.

How exactly is the material produced?

Lamp: The basis for the production is plant-based raw materials – more precisely: a side stream from industrial grain processing, for example brewery or starch production. We have developed an efficient and simple process to harness the natural polymers in it. This is the secret behind our materials.

The challenge: to bring this technology to scale! At an industrial production level, the production is price-competitive with plastics, but we are not there yet. In the two years since our founding, we have built and commissioned a pilot plant and are currently producing our materials there. A larger demonstration plant is being planned. We want to start building it this year. In view of the great demand, time is pressing!

The traceless material is particularly suitable for disposable products.

For which products is the material particularly suitable? What is it not suitable for?

Lamp: traceless has thermoplastic properties, and can be processed in a similar way to many plastics – for example into moulded parts, films or paper coatings. Injection moulded parts are a great potential.

In general, a biocircular material is suitable wherever products easily end up in the environment or where conventional recycling is difficult. Of course, new materials like ours cannot yet replace all plastics, especially in the high-performance sector. The material is stable in storage, but when exposed to weather and moisture it begins to decompose – one of the advantages of the material, but one that makes it rather unsuitable for a garden chair, for example. Therefore, disposable products or packaging are of particular interest, where the enormous resistance of plastic is not necessarily needed.

Together with C&A, a small hook was developed that is produced by injection moulding.

Where exactly is the material used? Do you already have experience?

Lamp: Our first product on the shelves is a small hook that we developed together with the fashion retailer C&A. The injection-moulded part is used for this purpose. The injection-moulded part is used to hang up socks. C&A is planning to significantly reduce the amount of conventional plastics in packaging and came to us looking for solutions. Especially with a small part like the hook, recycling is difficult in practice, so a plastic-free solution was interesting here. After some development time, the launch of this innovative project then attracted a lot of attention, there was a lot of press and positive feedback. Many C&A customers, on the other hand, hardly noticed that the hooks were different, because apart from the amber appearance, they look quite similar. We consider that a success – our material should work just as easily as plastic!

Last year you won the Next Economy Award as part of the German Sustainability Award. What does this award mean to you?

Lamp: It was an important award for us because it recognises the core objective of our company: to drive the green transformation of our economy. Especially in the consumer goods sector, sustainability claims are omnipresent but usually difficult to verify. We see the fact that the high-calibre jury has recognised our business model as sustainable after a thorough examination as a great external confirmation that we are on the right track. Of course, such a prestigious award is also important for our customers – processors, brands and retailers. But it is also very clear that we have not yet reached the end. We want to produce one million tonnes of traceless material by 2030, and replace less sustainable materials in many applications – we still have a long way to go!

Until 2030, the start-up wants to produce one million tons of traceless material.

You also participated as an exhibitor at K 2022. How did the trade fair go for you?

Lamp: As a young company founded in 2020, it was our first K as an exhibitor. We don’t offer plastic, but a natural material, but it can be processed like plastic – so it was clear to us that we would not only participate as a visitor, but also as an exhibitor. We were one of the only suppliers of natural polymers, so the interest was correspondingly great! We had an unbelievably large number of exciting discussions with processors and brand owners, from which some promising new development projects have already emerged.

It was also a great opportunity to expand our network: On the very first day, I was able to meet German State Secretary Dr. Christiane Rohleder for a personal discussion together with some industry representatives. It was really exciting to enter into dialogue and to understand even better how our solution can contribute to mastering the challenges of the entire industry.


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